Thursday, November 13, 2014

Homestead on Fifth Avenue

The Henry Clay Frick of the
Homestead strike is well em-
bodied in his legacy gallery's
scheme to deprive the people
of New York of the meaning and
the ornament of their public
right of landmarks designation.

I cannot be alone in knowing
no New Yorker who hesitates an
instant to name the residence
on Fifth at 70th as his most
cherished and uplifting secular
escape from the street, any
street in town. As everyone
now knows, the plan is to dwarf
and engulf that elegant pavil-
ion in the shadows and hovering
mass of a gross and patently
unresidential warehouse by ab-
sorption from the east.

The excuses, as much as the act,
fill a man with nausea. They all
boil down to the Frick's congen-
ital incapacity to control itself 
as a vortex of acquisition, which
is only to say of pre-emption of
things no one can assert that it
needs. Incontinent degeneracy of
this compulsive kind is usually
endured by the lower orders as a
normal price of protection from
attack, not as a droit de seig-
neur to diminish the commonwealth 
from within.

The landmarks designation needs
to be perceived as the Magna Carta
that it is, of an inviolable public
interest in the protections it con-
fers, including subsidies both di-
rect and indirect, amounting to vir-
tual warranties against hard times.
That the people of New York were
willing to cede this status to this
monster's real property only under-
scored the supremacy of their pre-
science over that of spendthrifts
at its helm. With every passing
building permit, their protection
of this house glows ever more chas-
teningly upon the mauve mistreat-
ments of their urban space.

There's much more to be said,
line by line of blunt rebuttal
of this foundation's faux confes-
sions of public spirit - never
making a showing of the need for
contiguous space for its extra-
vaganza exhibitions, its urgent
educational purposes, its coy
profferings of glimpses of the
the bestial boudoir, its arch
compassion for the pedestrian
idiot, who would no more find
the pretty corner he once en-
tered to swing in Fragonard
tremble to Holbein's More,  
distract Vermeer's young girl, 
simply kiss a new companion
in that warm, bucolic atrium,
or maybe treasure shelter in
Piccirilli's pediment. 

If this ill-gotten sanctuary is 
not the place to draw a line for
playing fair, there can't be one.
Ingenious defenses of the garden
miss the point, and seizing on a
promise to preserve it is only
vulnerable to equitable relief.
The landmarks designation, how-
ever, is an act of homestead. It
doesn't have a price.

Johannes Vermeer

William Serrin
  The Glory and Tragedy
  of an American Steel Town
Times Books
Random House, 1992©

E.P. Thompson
Customs in Common
  Studies in Traditional
  Popular Culture
op. cit.

Denys Sutton
The Frick Collection
  Kenneth Clark, John Pope-Hennessy,
  Alan Burnham, Terence Hodgkinson,
  Edgar Munhall, Graham Reynolds,
  Philippe Verdier, et al.
May, 1971
Apollo Magazine, Ltd., 1971©

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mother bid for me

.. fluatque
Lenis inoffenso vitaque
  morsque gradu.

.. and may
life and death glide gently
  on with unstumbling pace.

The commotion inevitably now
gathering about the disposal
of the estate of Paul Mellon's
widow is one which animates
wealth's fawning chronicles
almost as an instinctual day 
of obligation, in which many 
bow low to opportunity to at- 
test to their legitimacy.

As what, one has to wonder.
The late Mrs Mellon, already
so endlessly renewably able
to purchase things, before
so much as meeting Mr Mellon,
that her assumptions can be
said to have acquired only
a redundant layer of probity
in their union, is passing
in demise through that Sty-
gian mire in which our cul-
ture tugs against every pri-
vity of taste. I'd propose
it as obligatory also, to 
allow that passage a safe 
conduct against this tide.
If intimacy were good enough
at home, why not in memory;
but is it not the last stab
at scraps of provenance we
find at work, in these un-
anonymous reminiscences,
and flights of punctilious

There are no clean hands,
in the recirculation of ef-
fects. The desk at which
this blog has been written,
was purchased at auction of
Mrs Huntington's things, of
the Library of that name.
All over this world, are
children whose mother will
do the same as mine did, on-
ly to absorb, equivocally, 
a thing out of context. No
doubt, some will remember
where it once belonged. What
is as harrowingly false as
it is fashionable, is the
scaldingly adventitious in-
vasion in the winning bid,
as a lien upon the life.

I tumbled down the lawns
in California where the
Huntingtons' art is kept, 
I even rinsed with Bunny's
Listerine. I don't want
her things, I don't care
why she had them, I don't
believe that it matters,
not that it doesn't steep
them in collectible grace.
I do believe in lenity,
anent a person absent now, 
in peace. 

Samuel Johnson
Verses on the Death
  of his Mother
The Complete English Poems
J.D. Fleeman, editor
Yale University Press, 1982©

Paul Caponigro
Running White Deer
  County Wicklow

Monday, November 10, 2014

Preserved lemons

     As a child I could not get enough
     lime pickle from India. So when in
     Morocco I tasted preserved lemons
     for the first time, I fell in love.

Jeremiah Tower
Donald Sultan, paintings
Jeremiah Tower Cooks:
  250 Recipes from an
  American Master
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2002©

Sunday, November 9, 2014


  When it came night,
  the white waves
  paced to and fro in
  the moonlight, and
  the wind brought
  the sound of the great
  sea's voice to the men
  on shore, and they 
  felt that they could
  then be interpreters.

The Red Badge of Courage will need no prompt-
ing to recall the last of The Open Boat, as
the uncanny Stephen Crane resorted again to
the terrestrial telegraph. Called a supernova
by the editor of my walking-around collection
of his prose and poetry, no one seems to re-
sist the appellation in his case, as Heming-
way explained what happened to him: "He died
.. He was dying from the start."

All agree - Hemingway, the most - that this
extraordinarily projected life simply has not
met that end, and that, phosphorescently, the
touch of Stephen Crane imparts its flame be-
yond all imitation. Yet although his stamp 
upon American literature is staggering, and 
upon so many stylists, seductive, this is
his only real resemblance to Rimbaud.  

Now again we have an important study of Crane,
to add to John Berryman's and Christopher Ben-
fey's, and the constant lode in the learned
periodicals. I'm looking forward to reading
Paul Sorrentino's biography, which was warmly
received in [the] TLS. But that fine scholar-
ship must be content to compete with Crane's
astoundingly compelling writing, which draws
the mind beyond corroboration, again except
terrestrially -

    I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
    Round and round they sped.

Stephen Crane
1871 - 1900
The Open Boat
Black Riders
  and Other Lines
Gary Scharnhorst, editor
The Red Badge of Courage
  and Other Stories
op. cit.